December 18, 2008 Following last week's look at some of the coolest gear you definitely won't find under the tree this year, here's a selection of our favorite items from 2008 that just might. From sleek TVs to home surveillance robots and self-tuning guitars, consider yourself lucky if you find yourself unwrapping one of the following items this holiday season... and if you're still looking for that elusive gift for the person who seems to have everything, there's always the cheeseburger in a can.
1. Sony's XEL-1 OLED Television It's only an 11-inch, but Sony's XEL-1 gets our vote as the slickest audio visual entry onto the market this year. The industry’s first Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) television and the world’s first commercially available OLED screen, the XEL-1 is about 3 millimeters thin and offers picture quality with extremely high contrast (1,000,000:1 contrast ratio), outstanding brightness, exceptional color reproduction, rapid response time and low-power consumption. The price - USD$2500.
What to get the adventure buff who already has all the gear? Try this. Swiss-based company Katadyn has produced the world’s first cheeseburger in a can. The high tech hamburger has been developed for trekkers and the non-traditional metal wrapping reflects the Trekking-Mahlzeiten company ethos that its speciality meals should be easy to prepare and require only water to do so - simply throw the can into a water container over a fire, give it a minute or two, fish it out, open the lid, and eat. With a shelf life of twelve months without requiring refrigeration, the lightweight snack is the ideal fast food treat for the wilderness.
In another big year for digital photography, many leading prosumer models made the leap into 20MP+ territory and some, like Nikon and Canon, added HD movie recording. Nikon's new D90 Digital SLR includes a movie shooting function that delivers quality HD 720p (1,280 x 720 pixels) video. Thanks to the large image sensor, D-Movie images exhibit less noise than those of a typical camcorder, most notably in low-light situations. This is a landmark camera and will be the first of many remarkable all-in-one imaging devices using quality lenses and technology suitable for both modes.
4. The music video game
This little juggernaut has continued throughout 2008 with a broadening appeal that extends beyond just would-be guitarists and levels of sophistication that are attracting the interest of even the most talented musos. We've recently reviewed two of the stalwarts - Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band 2. Wii music arrived this year as did some high-end accessories. With interest in these games reportedly translating into more sales of real musical instruments, there could be hope for the future of popular music.
Have you every wondered exactly what your cat or dog gets up to when you’re not home? WowWee Robotics, the pioneering company behind Robosapien, has unveiled its new WiFi -enabled, remotely-controlled robotic webcam platform. Known as Rovio - the 3-wheeled telepresence allows you to interact with its environment, surveying the home or office remotely through streaming video and audio transmitted via the Internet to your cell phone, PC or video game console. Video is captured through a built-in camera and NorthStar smart navigation boosts the units ability to act autonomously. Rovio retails for USD$299.
6. TAG HEUER Night Vision eyeglasses for safer driving
Driving at night is far more dangerous than driving in daylight according to the statistics. That’s primarily because at night our pupils dilate, and we become short-sighted, though glare, halos, and reduced peripheral vision all contribute to ocular tiredness. TAG Heuer has released a set of ophthalmic Night Vision glasses specifically designed to correct dark-induced myopia, reduce glare, contrast the dark blue surroundings without changing colour perception and ultimately offer safer driving after dark. The US$400 night driving glasses were originally developed specifically for the Peugeot race team’s Le Mans 24 hour racing efforts, through TAG Heuer’s long involvement with motor racing, but they have now surfaced as a mainstream product with a very compelling feature set.
Here's one for the dedicated back-yard mechanic. Arizona based Robert Q. Riley Enterprises has now released construction plans based on the completed prototype of its do-it-yourself, two-passenger, XR3 plug-in hybrid, a vehicle that's capable of up to 225 miles per gallon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/fuel_economy_in_automobiles , has a top speed of 80 mph and acceleration comparable to a conventional small car. The USD$200 instructional package for the modular, three-wheeled sportscar includes printed drawings, electronic 3D virtual models, computer files that enable vendors to make parts plus a DVD that outlines the building of the car.
8. Go Solar: Solio portable solar charger
Solio's ruggedized Magnesium Edition builds on the features of the original (now branded Solio Classic) with greater output (8W), expanded compatibility, a higher-capacity lithium ion battery (3.7v, 1800mAh compared with 3.6v, 1600mAh) and a stronger magnesium alloy shell to cope with the rigors of the road. Retaining the same footprint and fan blade design as the original, the Magnesium Edition is compatible with the universal iGo Tip System and includes a female USB cable for iPod, digital cameras digital cameras and other compatible gadgetry. It can be charged in around 8-10 hours of direct sunlight or in approximately four hours via a wall outlet and can store energy for up to one year. The Magnesium Edition is priced around the USD$200 mark.
Online video sharing has absolutely exploded in the last few years – and the cresting wave of extreme sports we use to wrench ourselves out of the risk-free banality of modern life is showing no signs of slowing down. Helmet-cam technology provides a natural and easy means for the average rockclimber or motorcosser to record and distribute the action and excitement of their weekend – and latest-gen all-in one units like the VholdR push the state of the art further forward with MicroSD MicroSD memory, laser dot aiming and leveling, and nearly an hour's worth of 640x480, 30fps capture out of a tiny, featherweight, helmet-mount device.
10. Talk it up: the iPhone 3G
We can't round-out the list without mentioning one of the arrival of the iPhone 3G, the much anticipated new incarnation of the popular gadget which arrived in June, followed not long after by the arrival of the the first Android powered phone, the T-Mobile G1.
11. It's just so hard to stop at 10! Gibson's self tuning guitar
Gibson has recently become the first company to release a ready-made axe with the ability to adjust itself perfectly to a number of common tunings at the touch of a button. The Gibson Robot Guitar, which just received the NEWSTIPS "Best of Show" award at CES, also makes replacing strings and setting your intonation an absolute breeze. At US$2499, this intelligent Les Paul deserves to be a huge hit.
And of course there's many more clever and drool-worthy products that made the shortlist of things we'd love to see under our tree in 2008. Among those we can't resist mentioning are: the Sony Bravia ZX1, the Zuumer electric scooter, Wolverine's F2D film Scanner, Realtime video goggles for R/C planes, transparent speakers, EyeClops Night Vision Infrared stealth goggles, the Waboba Ball, Remington ShortCut Clipper and (sneaking one in for coffee nuts) the real coffee maker for camping.
If you feel that we've missed something huge that's on your wishlist - let us know about it in the comments section below. Or if you are still in need of some last minute gift ideas for the younger generation, our Childsplay section is worth a browse.